Actor Leslie Nielsen passed away today at a Ft. Lauderdale, Florida hospital, according to his agent John S. Kelly. He died of complications from pneumonia at the age of 84. Born on February 11, 1926, Nielsen is best known for his deadpan roles in spoof comedies such as “Airplane!” and “The Naked Gun” films, as well as “Forbidden Planet” (1956) and “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972). His agent sent out the following statement:
We are saddened by the passing of beloved actor Leslie Nielsen, probably best remembered as Lt. Frank Drebin in THE NAKED GUN series of pictures, but who enjoyed a more than 60 year career in motion pictures and television.”
Mr. Nielsen, 84, died of complications of pneumonia in a hospital near his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, surrounded by his lovely wife and dear friends at 5:34pm EST today.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in his name to the charity of your choice.
Nielsen appeared in over 100 films and over 1,500 TV programs during his career. Here are some classic Nielsen moments:
FRANCO and HATHAWAY to HOST OSCARS.
James Franco and Anne Hathaway will serve as co-hosts of the 83rd Academy Awards®, Oscar telecast producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer announced today. Both have previously appeared on the telecast but not in hosting capacities.
“James Franco and Anne Hathaway personify the next generation of Hollywood icons — fresh, exciting and multi-talented. We hope to create an Oscar broadcast that will both showcase their incredible talents and entertain the world on February 27,” said Cohen and Mischer. “We are completely thrilled that James and Anne will be joining forces with our brilliant creative team to do just that.”
Franco, who currently can be seen in “127 Hours,” will be making his second appearance on an Oscar telecast. Hathaway will be making her fifth appearance on an Academy Awards telecast, and was recently seen in “Alice in Wonderland” and currently can be seen in “Love and Other Drugs.”
Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2010 will be presented on Sunday, February 27, 2011, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center, and televised live on the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.
Paramount Pictures announced a sneak preview event for the biopic JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER, happening on February 9th:
Moviegoers across the U.S. and Canada may be among the first to experience the new 3D film, “JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER,” at exclusive “sneak preview” screening events set for Wednesday, February 9th at 6pm at specially selected RealD® 3D equipped movie theaters across the country.
Each complete Sneak Preview Gift Pack is priced at $30.00 (plus shipping) and includes:
•One ticket to the movie sneak preview Wednesday, February 9th at 6pm
•A pair of limited edition purple “JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER” RealD® 3D glasses
•A souvenir VIP event lanyard
•Official “JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER” branded glow stick and bracelet
For event locations around the country, to purchase tickets, or to learn more about this exclusive event, please go to: JB3DPreview.com. Limit is 6 tickets per credit card transaction. Supplies are limited.
MICHELLE WILLIAMS is MARILYN.
London’s The Daily Mail is currently obsessed with BBC Films’ Marilyn Monroe movie MY WEEK WITH MARILYN, which just finished filming at Pinewood Studios with the Weinstein Company planning on distributing the movie stateside. The paper has a new interview with star Michelle Williams tying into the completion of filming with the actress talking at length about playing the iconic screen legend, Marilyn Monroe, with a new photo (below) from the movie accompanying that interview. “At a certain point, something else does take over. I don’t quite feel myself these days,” she told the paper. Co-starring Eddie Redmayne, Judi Dench, Julia Ormond, Dougray Scott, Dominic Cooper and more, the film focuses on Monroe’s relationship with Colin Clark (Redmayne), a well-to-do British laborer on the set of her 1956 movie “The Prince and the Showgirl” with whom she had a romance.
UPCOMING FILM PROJECTS.
Atlas Entertainment announced it is rebooting the beloved franchise, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, with Warner Bros. Pictures. Atlas’ Charles Roven and Steve Alexander will produce the feature film alongside Doug Davison and Roy Lee of Vertigo Entertainment (The Ring, How to Train Your Dragon, The Departed). Whit Anderson is writing the script. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” first appeared as a film in 1992, subsequently becoming a cult hit and spawning the wildly popular television series starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz, among many others.
Creator Joss Whedon responded to the announcement, saying, “This is a sad, sad reflection on our times, when people must feed off the carcasses of beloved stories from their youths—just because they can’t think of an original idea of their own, like I did with my Avengers idea that I made up myself.”
Walt Disney Pictures has confirmed that Gore Verbinksi is now officially signed on for Disney’s THE LONE RANGER. Verbinksi, who has worked with Johnny Depp on the first three “Pirates of the Caribbean” films and the upcoming “Rango,” will re-team with the actor, currently attached to play the Lone Ranger’s sidekick, Tonto. The Lone Ranger’s origin story begins with a group of Texas Rangers chasing down a gang of outlaws led by Butch Cavendish. The gang ambushes the Rangers, seemingly killing them all. One survivor is found, however, by an American Indian named Tonto, who nurses him back to health. The Ranger, donning a mask and riding a white stallion named Silver, teams up with Tonto to bring the unscrupulous gang and others of that ilk to justice.
Mark Wahlberg has confirmed to MTV that he will play Nathan Drake in the David O. Russell-directed UNCHARTED: DRAKE’S FORTUNE video game adatptation and that Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci may have roles as well. Wahlberg told MTV he hopes to reteam with his “The Fighter” and “Three Kings” director next year. “The idea that he has is just insane,” Wahlberg said about Russell. “So hopefully we’ll be making that movie this summer.” He added: “That’s who he wants to write the parts for. I talked to Pesci about it and I know David’s people have talked to [Robert De Niro]… I’m obviously in whatever David wants to do but the idea of it is so off the charts: De Niro being my father, Pesci being my uncle. It’s not going to be the watered-down version, that’s for sure.” The story will allegedly have something to do with antiquities dealers in New York.
Gael Garcia Bernal will play boxing champ Roberto Duran in HANDS OF STONE, reports TheWrap. Al Pacino is also circling the role of boxing trainer Ray Arecel in the biopic. Jonathan Jakubowicz (“Secuestro Express”) will write, direct and produce the project with Ben Silverman. The site says the film “will focus on the boxing champion and will tell the inside story of the ‘No Mas’ fight.” In the closing seconds of the fight’s last round, Duran turned his back to Leonard and quit, saying “no mas” (“no more”). Duran beat Leonard in an earlier welterweight championship bout. They would meet again in a 1989 middleweight championship fight in Las Vegas. Leonard won that fight in 12 rounds.
Until next week!
Tags: academy awards, Airplane!, Anne Hathaway, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gael Garcia Bernal, Hands of Stone, james franco, Joss Whedon, justin bieber, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, Leslie Nielsen, Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn, Naked Gun, oscar, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
Posted in Blog | 1 Comment »
If you believe the pundits, Colin Firth will win the Academy Award for Best Actor this year.
The 50-year-old actor should have received his big break in 1989, when a then-unknown Firth landed the lead opposite Annette Bening in director Milos Forman’s (“Amadeus”) film “Valmont” – an adaptation of the French novel, “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.” Unfortunately, the film was beaten to the multiplex by Stephen Frears’ Oscar-winning film, “Dangerous Liaisons,” and played to little fanfare.
After starring as Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy in the 1995 BBC miniseries “Pride and Prejudice,” Firth became an instant heartthrob, and was subsequently typecast as characters bearing the repressed Darcy persona – including his spurned lover roles in “The English Patient” and “Shakespeare in Love,” a contempo version of Darcy in “Bridget Jones’ Diary,” and tortured-in-love painter Johannes Vermeer in “Girl with a Pearl Earring.”
Recently, something’s changed. Perhaps it was his leading role as a courageous warrior in the sword-and-sandals epic, “The Last Legion,” which bombed terribly at the box office, or appearing in the highest-grossing film in British history, “Mamma Mia!,” but of late, Firth has taken on more complex roles in character studies, including last year’s drama, “A Single Man.” The film marked the directorial debut of fashion icon Tom Ford, and featured Firth as George Falconer, a melancholic, gay professor mourning the death of his lover. The character was Firth at his most vulnerable, and garnered him an Oscar nod for Best Actor – his first.
While accepting the BAFTA – the British equivalent of Oscar – for “A Single Man,” Firth stammered through his acceptance speech. At first, it looked like just nerves, but little did the audience know that Firth was in the process of filming “The King’s Speech” – the tale of King George VI, who was plagued by a paralyzing stammer, and his unorthodox Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who helps him. And if this writer is to be believed, Colin Firth will be hoisting a golden statue high in the air come February 27, 2011.
MMM sat down with Colin Firth to chat about his critically-hailed role in “The King’s Speech,” his own brush with royalty, the film’s rating troubles, and his personal thoughts on the British royals.
MANHATTAN MOVIE MAGAZINE: One of the central themes of the film is the issue of friendship and being isolated from people in general. It has to be relatable from a person in entertainment since you must have people who want to be your friend because it sheds the spotlight on them a bit, and I think Bertie’s main issue was that he’s never had a friend before.
COLIN FIRTH: You’re bang-on. It’s funny to say a story about the royal family, since none of us can say what that’s like. How can it possibly be universal? But I think what it’s done is taken issues that apply to absolutely everybody and taken this convention to heighten these things. Isolation is universal; it doesn’t matter how close you are to your family or how perfect your marriage is. There’s some level on which you can’t be reached, and this is taking that reality and making a very extreme case out of it. If communication’s imperfect, let’s show a case where it’s traumatic; if men protect themselves behind certain reserves against intimacy, then let’s take a man who not only does that, he’s protected by high walls, titles, protocols, and make the therapist work through all those things. You could almost look at them as metaphors for barriers we all put up.
MMM: Have you ever met royalty?
FIRTH: Not meaningfully. There are certain events in which you might find yourself shaking hands with a member of the royal family, but there’s nothing that gives you any clue of what it’s like to be that person—apart from watching people’s behavior around them. I was at an event where Prince Charles, who is very gracious with the people he meets, was being ushered around by his private secretary, and he would try his best to give as much of his focus and interest, and usually knew quite a lot about the people he was speaking to. But his private secretary would make sure he wouldn’t go too long with that person cause there was someone else in line. It was interesting to see people who were otherwise composed and would claim not to be impressed by royalty suddenly completely transforming, and becoming very, very nervous. You realize that if you are a member of the royal family, you encounter this very often, and that’s how you see the human race.
MMM: In the film, it showed how Bertie overcame his stammer. Was that based on facts?
FIRTH: I don’t think the film shows him overcoming it, I think it shows him coming to an arrangement with it where it won’t stop him from doing his job. That last speech, his therapist is right there and he has to fight for every word. He was never cured. I tried to follow the cadences of the real speech, and you hear it’s very measured and broken up, and you hear him going through three syllables and ending on up-phrases, and every now and then you’d hear him get blocked again. And that’s a fight. Everyone who’s sitting there listening to it – the Queen, Churchill, all the rest – are on the edge of their seat until the end. So, he overcomes the debilitating fear of it; he doesn’t overcome the fact that he will always have the obstacle.
MMM: What tricks did you use to get the stammer down, and were you able to shed it at the end of the day?
FIRTH: No, I got a bit confused in my own speech patterns. I’m a little worried when I tell people this, about how “deeply-immersed” you are in your role. It’s muscle memory. Your body will train itself to do that exercise. If you train yourself to interfere you’re your rhythm of speech, something in your brain remembers that, and follows it, and if you’re going around trying to promote “A Single Man” at the time, it sometimes comes around to haunt you. That’s not a real stammer; that’s my mind playing tricks on me. I spoke to the head of the British Stammering Association a few weeks ago, and he said research shows that there’s a strong neurological component; it’s not a psychological problem, there’s something happening in the brain. So I asked him if Logue is on the wrong track since he’s trying to work on the psychological process, and he said no, you learn not to be crushed by it; not to be disabled by it.
MMM: Could you talk more about your process and how you mastered the stammer?
FIRTH: I can’t! It was such an incremental process; in conversations with Tom, in conversations with David Seidler, our writer, who spent his childhood battling a stammer and still says that it’s not something that’s completely gone. But to listen to the way he talked about it, and to talk to Tom about the way it can work in the context of a film – we have a certain amount of time, we’ve got scenes that have to have a certain pace, and we also have to judge it so that people who are rooting for him can experience the agony of the stammer; how do you do that in a way that people share that, but in a way that it’s not so uncomfortable so that they film becomes unwatchable? Or that the pace grinds to a halt?
MMM: There were some major issues with this film getting an R-rating thanks mostly to the one therapy scene, as well as issues with the British ratings board.
FIRTH: Well, we won the battle with the British ratings board. Spectacularly. As far as I know, it was precedent. In Britain, we have a ’15,’ so it’s an in-between. We go 12A, 15, 18 – which is our R. It originally had a ’15,’ so it was already more lenient, and then it got dropped to a ‘12A.’ There’s a message on the poster that says, “It contains strong language in a speech-therapy context.” This can get really facile, this argument. I spoke about this a few weeks ago and got a ‘Firth blasts the MPAA’ headline. I’m not blasting the MPAA. They love the word ‘blasting.’ This isn’t a non-issue. I get that people don’t want their small children hearing these words. I don’t like them. One of the things the British board said was that it was not in a violent context, wasn’t directed at anyone, and wasn’t in a sexual context. As a parent, the context I would like to keep my kids away from is casual use. I love football – soccer. I love to take them to soccer, but I have to wrestle with myself because what they hear there would make a sailor blush, and certainly would make that scene sound like something from “The Sound of Music.” And they are screaming, those [soccer fans], and they are angry and serious, and I’m sitting there with a 6-year-old and I don’t want to deny him the joy of a football game, but you can’t get away from it. He’s heard worse, but it doesn’t make him go around saying it. It’s a dilemma. So, I don’t relish those words, so I’m not sitting hear judging people who don’t like the words. But, as far as the rest of public opinion is concerned, I’d be kicking in an open door if I stood here railing about it, because everyone seems to be in harmony on the subject; especially with the consistency issue.
MMM: Plus, this is a story that teenagers should see because of both the history element, and the quality of the film. So it must be frustrating that they can’t.
FIRTH: Yes, it is. I think this is why it’s being used as a bit of a flagship for the cause. I think every parent has a right to set down parameters for their own kids, and I don’t want my kids to think that language is okay. But that’s not the case in this movie. It’s not vicious, it’s not sexual, it’s not lazy; it’s anything but. These forbidden words have become momentary tools to get a guy to break out of extreme repression, and then he immediately gets rather sheepish and apologizes. There couldn’t be a more harmless context. And so, if there ever was an exception—I would hate to discourage kids in that age bracket, from 13-18, from seeing a film that has so much to say to people that age.
MMM: How do you feel the British monarchy has changed over the years?
FIRTH: I don’t watch them closely, so I don’t know. I find it very difficult to answer questions about the monarchy because I’m not a royal-watcher. Some people are. But an extraordinary moment happened in England with the death of Princess Diana. People became incredibly emotional all over the country, and the Queen was criticized for not lowering the flag. I don’t know what’s happening in their real lives, behind closed doors. They have the right not to exhibit it to the public the same way everyone does. I don’t want to be photographed hugging my kids either. It’s my business, not yours. But somebody made a comment around that time—a columnist said it’s about the nature of who the British think they are. This idea of British repression has always been a stereotype which is qualifiable anyway, but I think the English are just as accurately represented by the Rolling Stones as they are by John Major, or somebody. I mean the royal family aren’t even English, anyway. Philip’s Greek, the rest of them are German… they’re immigrants. [Laughs] No I’m being a bit arched there, but we are all a mixed nation. But this guy said, “We seem to have gone overnight from a country who can’t talk about their emotions to a country that cannot stop.” Everybody was holding each other and hugging each other and it suddenly became essential to hug each other. “Have you hugged your kids lately?” And the English have turned into that. It’s quite extraordinary how this touchy-feely thing came over.
MMM: Not to throw a jinx your way, but I know you were honored to being nominated for an Oscar for “A Single Man.” Would it be particularly gratifying to win an Oscar for this role?
FIRTH: Well, I mean it’s gratifying to get attention for a performance. I’m not going to wish any of it away! Talk as much as you like, but I welcome all of it! Well, we have to wait for it to come out. All I can say about it right now is if people are talking about it like that, I just think “wonderful start.” It’s code for “it’s a really good movie,” at the moment.
MMM: What’s coming up next?
FIRTH: I’m doing a movie called “Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy,” which is from a novel by John le Carré, and is a wonderful novel which was a brilliant television series in the 1970s. Tomas Alfredson (“Let the Right One In”), a very fine Swedish director, is directing it. I am playing a spy—flawed, melancholy, the loneliness of the human motivation inside espionage. It’s thinking man’s spy stuff.
THE KING’S SPEECH is now playing in select theaters.
Not to be confused with the 1995 action film of the same name that featured Cindy Crawford’s first (and only, thankfully) starring film role (and topless scene), Doug Liman’s action flick FAIR GAME stars Naomi Watts as Valerie Plame Wilson, the undercover CIA operative who was outed by former George W. Bush White House official Scooter Libby.
In case you’re not familiar with the background, here goes nothing. On July 14, 2003, Washington Post journalist Robert Novak wrote a column revealing Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA operative. He was given this information by senior ranking White House official Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was eventually convicted of was of obstruction of justice, making false statements, and two counts of perjury. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison, but George W. Bush commuted his sentence. The incident has popped up in the news recently as Bush makes the press rounds for his new memoir, “Decision Points.” In the book, Bush recounts that a furious Dick Cheney told him, upon learning that Bush would only be commuting Libby’s sentence and not foregoing the $250,000 fine and two years of probation,” I can’t believe you’re going to leave a soldier on the battlefield.”
The film, based in part on Valerie Plame Wilson’s memoir “Fair Game,” is directed by Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity”) from a screenplay by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth. Naomi Watts stars as Plame Wilson, while Sean Penn stars as her husband, Joe Wilson.
Watts immediately established herself as an elite actress following her stunning breakthrough role as a schizophrenic in David Lynch’s 2001 film, “Mulholland Drive.” Since then, she’s also appeared in a wide range of films, including the horror flick “The Ring,” earned a Best Actress Oscar nod for the intense drama “21 Grams” (also alongside Penn), and appeared in Peter Jackson’s Hollywood blockbuster, “King Kong.”
Like Plame Wilson, Watts strikes a balance between work and motherhood. Since 2005, Watts has been in a relationship with fellow actor Liev Schreiber, and the two had their first child – a son, Alexander “Sasha” Pete, in 2007, and their second son, Samuel “Sammy” Kai, in 2008.
MMM attended the press conference for the film Fair Game, where the talented Naomi Watts chatted about embodying Valerie Plame Wilson, her post-baby boot camp, and how she balances work and family.
MANHATTAN MOVIE MAGAZINE: Naomi, obviously you getting into the skin of someone that is alive, available, how much do you take advantage of that or not take advantage of that, and then how much do you concern yourself or worry in the process of them seeing it?
NAOMI WATTS: I think when you play someone who is a true, living person it definitely ups the ante and the pressure is tenfold. Everyone in America is familiar with this story, so I felt an extra amount of pressure that I wanted to tell it as truthfully as I could. And the fact that Valerie was not only alive but very involved closely, she was acting as one of our CIA consultants, she was on the set frequently as the BS barometer and saying, “This is how this scene would work,” or “We wouldn’t have those signs there,” or “You wouldn’t address someone like that.” She was very hands-on. It’s not every day as an actor that you get to meet a person like this. She’s someone who’s truly impressive to me so I was nervous. It felt like a big undertaking, and because of her injustice, because of that level of betrayal, it was deeply important for me to somehow serve her story in the best possible way. Our relationship was formed in a very quick and small amount of time. Basically, I had a baby on December 13, I read the script on December 28, and we were filming in February. We did like a little mini-shoot to catch the end of winter in February. So it was so little time, and so many facts. Obviously, we knew the story, but it was told through the media in a fragmented way. It was about piecemealing it together and then sort of letting go of the facts and concentrating on the character and really learning her story. Who was this woman and how did she deal with this betrayal? How did her marriage, her family function; how did her lifestyle change; who did she become? It would be so easy to assume that any of us would either avoid the fight altogether or come undone, and she did neither. And then with Sean, he actually went to Santa Fe and stayed with them for a couple of days. I couldn’t do that; I was nursing a child.
MMM: And I heard you were sent to boot camp?
WATTS: Yeah, Doug [Liman] sent me off. He was like, “No, you’re too soft and maternal. You’re going to boot camp.” I did some paramilitary training for three days.
MMM: You said one thing that Valerie certainly didn’t do is hide away or retreat or deny. I kind of think that’s exactly what she did. It’s almost like the instant the Novak story appears their whole world is transformed instantly into a battlefield. Her view seems to be, “I really don’t like these bullets and bombs. I’ve got my kids in the bunker, I’ve got my way of doing things, and I don’t want to do this.” And then she wakes up after she talks to Sam Shepard. That’s just the way it felt.
WATTS: Well I think the thing about Valerie is that if you meet her you learn very quickly that she’s not someone who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s not an emotionally driven person. She was a brilliant covert agent and that is who she is to this day. She’s very controlled and reserved and quiet and warm, but you don’t get her all at once and she’s not easy to read. Yes, at times in playing this character it was difficult for me to wrap my head around that because I would handle it very differently than someone like her. But that’s who she is, that’s who she is through and through and she talks about it in the movie. Nothing ever broke her; she’s the one person in her training class that got through. She’s not a victim or a martyr. She absorbs things slowly and learns how to deal with them in her own way.
MMM: Naomi, could you talk about how you related personally to Valerie in terms of that you’re both mothers and you have to divide your time between a very intense career and also motherhood?
WATTS: Yeah. I had the utmost respect for her because of that and how she managed with twins and traveling all kinds of places all over the world and outrageous hours week in and week out. My job can be like that but then there are also incredible breaks. So I talked to her a lot about that, how she managed to be a professional and a mother and be really good at it. In fact, that was one of the things I learned about her just recently because I’d never really got to see her with her kids but obviously I heard her talk about them endlessly. But when she came into my hotel in Cannes and how she related to my children it was very clear in an instant that she is a natural mother, because my kids don’t really pay attention to people unless they’re holding some great, fantastic toy or something. So that balance was interesting to me, how she managed that, and definitely something that I can relate to.
MMM: Naomi, Liev told us he was also in research mode for “Salt” since he played a CIA supervisor. What was it like in your household during that period of time?
WATTS: It was very funny and very strange to have first of all, two of us shooting at the same time – that’s the first time it ever happened with us – and second of all, that we were both playing spies. But they couldn’t really have been more different; one was the classic spy story and one was based in truth and facts. So we were laughing about it; there were a lot of moments where we shared our research and watched documentaries on the CIA and compared notes, and I was talking about NOC. It was quite funny and unusual and good timing in a way, because he helped me and I helped him.
MMM: Naomi, how much did you actually know about Valerie’s story before you got called, and what were you thinking when you got to the end of the script?
WATTS: I was familiar with the story and was not following it as avidly as I wished I had at the time had I known this was going to be going on. But I was interested in it, and then it sort of just went away after the Libby trial. The next thing was getting that email from Jez Butterworth, who’s an old friend, and I said, “Listen, I just had a baby, I don’t think I’m going to read a script for a while,” and he went “Well, this is about Valerie Plame Wilson and Joe and their story. Just read the first 10 pages.” Of course he was very smart, as he always is, because you couldn’t just read 10 pages of the script. It all came back to me but there was obviously a lot more information that I discovered, and again, didn’t know quite the level of responsibility in her position. Then I read her book, which the script is based on, and went into more research, and then meeting her. So I learned a lot kind of on the job, basically. But I did know the story before I got closer.
MMM: Naomi, can you talk about meeting her for the first time and what surprised you about her? And also what was this boot camp, especially after just having a baby?
WATTS: Well meeting her it took a while, because as I said, I’d just had the baby. We worked out that Santa Fe and New York door-to-door travel was 12 hours and it wasn’t going to be an easy thing. I would have liked to be able to do what Sean did and just show up and hang out for a couple of days. Be inside their home and see how things functioned, but it just didn’t happen. But what was funny, and I realized I’m really talking to a spy when she said, “Well okay. How about we meet halfway? Let’s meet at Chicago airport.” I’m who meets at an airport? Oh, a spy does. But even that became hard to do, and eventually she came to New York and we had dinner. And again, like I said before, you don’t get her all at once, so it takes time, and I’m kind of like that too. I like to read a person before I give myself away or something; I don’t know. She’s obviously someone who that’s her training. So we just were careful and easy with each other and we slowly went into it, and then finally it was like crunch time and I just presented her with a list of very confronting and personal questions. All the facts were available but really what I wanted to get into was her mindset and her psyche and how she dealt with this. And yeah, how she was almost kind of just unbelievably consistent and strong. I wanted to learn about who that person was and how she managed to function in every part of her life. Oh yeah the training. That was intense
MMM: Did Valerie speak about how she felt about having to leave her agents out there and not being able to protect them and their families?
WATTS: Well, yeah. This is what the film is about. I think it’s very strange how her life evolved. She never expected to be in the position of exposing her life story and having it turn up into a film. She loved her job, she loved what she did, and would have that back in a second if she could. Obviously deeply involved with a number of different families, assets, whatever, that she was emotionally attached to. So it was really hard for her. This is why it felt like such a huge betrayal, and going into her job as a covert agent she expected, or there’s risk of being exposed by another government, but to have it done to you by your own is such an injustice.
MMM: As you know, Valerie lived a double life. As an actress you sort of have a double life as well – your home life and your public persona. What do your kids think of what Mom and Dad do for a living? Do they understand?
WATTS: Well her kids were very young at the time.
MMM: Oh no, your kids.
WATTS: Oh. They don’t really understand it yet. There have been times when they see a photo or a flash of us on tv or something and they’ll go “Oh! Mommy!” or “Daddy!” And then we try to explain Daddy’s got to go to work or Mommy’s got to go to work now. “But I want to come!” They can come to the set and they see you. They think our work is in a trailer; that’s our office. And then actually I’m shooting a film right now called “The Impossible,” which is another true story that we all know of based on the tsunami. This one was quite difficult then coming to work for the first time because they saw Mommy in quite a bad condition. So I had to explain that these owies were just pretend, and it took a little while. We prepped it days in advance and then showed them how you can put a little bit of blood on and then you can rub it off, and now they like it too.
FAIR GAME is now playing in select theaters nationwide.
By Marlow Stern
So, the 2010 Academy Awards have come and gone. Despite attracting more viewers – 41.3 million compared to 36.3 million last year – it was a decidedly lame ceremony.
The expansion of best picture hopefuls from five to 10 is likely accountable for this year’s surge to a five-year ratings high, although shouldn’t take all the credit. The down economy has been more conducive to moviegoing, and this year’s Oscar ceremony attracted younger demos with teen idol presenters like Miley Cyrus, Zac Efron and the “Twilight” crowd.
Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin failed to impress as co-hosts. There were high expectations for this pairing thanks to their respective hilarious stints as hosts of “Saturday Night Live,” but, there was a severe dearth in skits and none of the heckled stars seemed into it (least of all George Clooney, who boasted a smug, disinterested expression the entire night). Gone are the days of Billy Crystal serenading Jack Nicholson from Jack’s lap. The most inspired performances came from presenter Ben Stiller – dressed as a nav’i and hissing at James Cameron, and the presenter combo of Robert Downey Jr. and Tina Fey, whose repartee was like a symphony in passive aggression.
But what made the 2010 Oscars so unexciting was, for the most part, the predictability. When the biggest upset of the night is Argentina’s “El Secreto de Sus Ojos” taking home Best Foreign Film over Germany’s “The White Ribbon” or France’s “A Prophet,” you know you’ve got a snooze-worthy program (it bears mentioning that the Best Foreign Film Oscar selection process is entirely screwed up, which explains why in years past films like “City of God” never won, and “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” wasn’t even nominated).
It’s time for the Oscars to get CREATIVE in its nominations. The Academy needs to strip its senior (65+) members of their voting rights, or at least have them take a movie equivalency test to reaffirm their critical faculties (similar to eye testing for senior citizen drivers). Stop shunning the great comedy and action performances in favor of stale turns in biopics and costume dramas. Did anyone give a damn about “The Last Station?”
Without further ado, here are MMM’s 2010 Academy Award nominees (and who we thought should have won):
Sure, Jeff Bridges was “due,” having been nommed 4 times before and being unceremoniously shunned from a nomination for his madcap turn in “The Big Lebowski” thanks to the Academy’s longstanding anti-comedy stance, but Sharlto Copley delivered the most engaging performance of the year in “District 9.” His character arc from obnoxious, toadying pencil pusher to “DON’T YOU FOOKIN’ LOOK AT ME!”-shouting action hero is a master class in acting. Copley’s performance elevated “District 9” to one of the year’s best films, and even validated the film’s transition from a sci-fi parable to chase film during its third act. Props should also be paid to Sam Rockwell’s convincing turn as clones in the criminally underrated sci-fi flick “Moon,” directed by David Bowie spawn Duncan Jones; Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s star-making performance – and great karaoke rendition of The Pixies – as the naïve, manipulated lover of Zooey Deschanel in “500 Days of Summer”; and Nicolas Cage’s downright wacky, drugged-out turn in Werner Herzog’s “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.”
OK, so Sandra Bullock was solid in “The Blind Side.” But honestly, it’s just a glorified Disney movie – like “Remember the Titans” with a ballsy woman supplanting Denzel Washington and more cloying scenes. Tilda Swinton’s unglamorous performance as a woman who kidnaps a boy in an extortion plot gone awry puts her sweaty-armpits turn in “Michael Clayton” to shame. Inspired by John Cassavetes’s “Gloria,” Swinton’s turn as the alcoholic protagonist, smudged eye shadow and all, is the most intense and ballsy female performance of the year. Props should also be bestowed upon Kirsten Stewart, who, though certifiably awful in the “Twilight” films, displays some heavy acting chops as emotionally fragile characters in films like “Into the Wild” and “Adventureland.” And if you wanna take about ballsy, look no further than Charlotte Gainsbourg in Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist.” Winner of Best Actress at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, Gainsbourg bares all – physically and emotionally – as the tormented heroine of Von Trier’s gloomy, violent film.
No argument here. Christoph Waltz’s turn as the “Jew Hunter,” Nazi Colonel Hans Landa, in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds” is nothing short of the best performance of the year (in any category). I mean, the guy speaks FIVE languages in the film (convincingly). It’s also nice to see the Academy finally give an outstanding – and deserving – Nazi performance the statue. Edward Norton should’ve won for “American History X,” and ditto for Ralph Fiennes’ supporting turn in “Schindler’s List.” Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling weren’t even nominated for “Romper Stomper” and “The Believer,” respectively. But my main issue is with the nominees. Matt Damon (“Invictus”), Woody Harrelson (“The Messenger”), Christopher Plummer (“The Last Station”) and Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”) are such uninspired, “name recognition” choices. Did these characters elevate their respective films? Were they memorable at all? Not nearly as memorable as Peter Capaldi’s hilarious turn as foul-mouthed Prime Minister enforcer Malcolm Tucker in “In the Loop” – “FUCKITY-BYE!” Or Zach “Fat Jesus” Galifianakis’s movie-stealing turn in “The Hangover?” One of the year’s other great comedies, “I Love You, Man,” really takes off when Jason Segel’s wild, hyper-masculine character is introduced a half hour in. And who can forget Zachary Quinto’s stoic sexiness in the elevator with Uhura in “Star Trek?”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Mo’Nique, “Precious” (WINNER)
Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”
Gwyneth Paltrow, “Two Lovers”
Melanie Laurent, “Inglourious Basterds”
Maggie Gyllenhaal, “Crazy Heart”
Again, no argument here. Mo’Nique and director Lee Daniels created an iconic movie monster in “Precious.” And somehow, despite all the tossed TV sets and verbal abuse, Mo’Nique manages to make her monster seem human in the film’s climactic scene. She probably won’t be heard from again (see: Jennifer Hudson), but lets give credit where it’s due. But did “Up in the Air” really need TWO supporting noms? No. It barely deserved one. And Penelope Cruz’s nomination for that horrible piece of crap musical “Nine” was just based on Academy cache (hers and the Weinsteins’). I’m not the biggest fan of Gwyneth Paltrow’s, but her turn as the Joaquin Phoenix’s seductress in the underappreciated “Two Lovers” is magnetic – as is the stunning Melanie Laurent’s turn as Jewish escapee Shoshanna in “Inglourious Basterds.” At long last, a coterie of talented French actresses are starting to crossover to the U.S. (see: Laurent, Marion Cotillard, Eva Green). She’s the heart and soul of the film, and who can forget that splendid sequence of her applying warrior makeup to David Bowie?
How the HELL was “Anvil: The Story of Anvil” not nominated for Best Documentary? I don’t want to think about it too much because it will just upset me. Yes, “The Cove” was a beautiful, edifying documentary. OK. But no documentary tugged at the heartstrings like “Anvil.” It was far and away the most affecting – and effective – rock documentary I’ve ever seen and, excuse the cliché, a “triumph of the human spirit.” Canadian metalheads Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner are also the best onscreen couple of the year, displaying the true meaning of friendship, through high and very, very low. I’m also not sure how “Afghan Star” escaped being nominated. The film, a look at how contestants on the a musical contest program “Pop Idol” in Afghanistan risk their lives to appear on the show, is an outstanding commentary on celebrity and the social injustices of the region. But seriously, go see “Anvil.” You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll headbang.
James Cameron accomplished the unthinkable in “Avatar,” crafting a technology-pushing 3-D dreamscape. Kathryn Bigelow’s hyper-kinetic direction in “The Hurt Locker” was consistently thrilling. But Michael Haneke’s direction in “The White Ribbon” is masterful. Every shot is a delicately composed work of art, vividly rendered in black and white. It’s far and away the most beautiful-looking film of the year. When nearly everyone describes the film – and direction – as Bergmanesque, you know you’re seeing something special. Sure, Haneke is incredibly pretentious and scary looking, but what the hell. And some love should also be given to the filmmaking duo of Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (“Half Nelson”), who, with their Dominican baseball recruiting film “Sugar,” do a great job of capturing their protagonist’s sense of alienation and displacement, as he’s transported from the Dominican baseball league, to a farm league in the Midwest United States, and then, to congested New York City. Though tiny in stature, the film’s journey is one of epic proportion.
“Where the Wild Things Are”
“The Hurt Locker”
“The White Ribbon”
“A Prophet” (WINNER)
It’s just annoying that decent albeit undeserving films like “The Blind Side,” “An Education” and “Up in the Air” steal nominations from more deserving fare that could actually use the Oscar nomination to their benefit. The aforementioned “Sugar” was a completely immersive study of alienation; “Where the Wild Things Are” a fully-realized fantasy that captured the estrangement and imagination of youth; “Humpday” was the most hilarious comedy of the year, as well as an intelligent deconstruction of modern male masculinity; and, last but certainly not least, French genre filmmaker Jacques Audiard’s crime saga “A Prophet” was captivating from start to finish. It’s the most complete character study of the year, presenting us with an illiterate, 19-year old Arab street urchin entering prison, and taking us on a journey of spiritual and criminal enlightenment, as the protagonist blossoms into a full-blown crime czar. In “A Prophet,” crime is the hero’s only religion…
…Let’s hope for some more inspired choices next year, Academy!